Armenian law-enforcement authorities have given no indications that they will set free a man who went on a hunger strike almost one month ago to protest against coup charges levelled against him.
The jailed man, Nerses Poghosian, was taken into custody following the arrest on June 20 of Zhirayr Sefilian, the leader of the Founding Parliament opposition movement.
Sefilian was charged with acquiring large quantities of weapons and forming an armed group to seize government buildings in Yerevan. He denies the charges as politically motivated.
Poghosian is facing similar charges carrying between three and eight years’ imprisonment. He too flatly denies them, saying that he does not even know Sefilian personally and has never been affiliated with Founding Parliament.
The father of three went on a hunger strike 28 days ago after Armenian courts refused to order his release.
Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian implied late on Tuesday that despite the continuing life-threatening protest his law-enforcement agency has no intention to meet Poghosian’s demands.
“The prosecutors periodically address the grounds for keeping all individuals in pre-trial detention, including Nerses Poghosian’s case,” Davtian told reporters. “It is Nerses Poghosian’s right to attract attention in this way.”
Poghosian’s lawyer, Ara Papikian, deplored Davtian’s comments, saying that the prosecutors have never properly scrutinized the “illegal arrest” of his client. “It’s very unfortunate that a suspect is being treated in this way,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Wednesday. “The whole [law-enforcement] system is like that. We couldn’t expect anything different from the prosecutors.”
According to the lawyer, the criminal case against Poghosian is based only on incriminating testimony given by two other arrested men.
Poghosian said on Tuesday that he will not end the hunger strike despite his worsening health condition. “I do believe that real justice will be done,” he said in a statement released from Yerevan’s Nubarashen prison.
Sefilian and the other suspects were arrested about one month before three dozen armed members of Founding Parliament seized a police station in Yerevan. The gunmen demanded that President Serzh Sarkisian free Sefilian and other “political prisoners” and step down. They surrendered to law-enforcement authorities following a two-week standoff which left three police officers dead.